The formation of government is one of the central themes for both Hobbes and Locke. Whether or not men naturally form a government, or must form a government, is based on mans basic nature. According to Hobbes, a government must be formed to preserve life and prevent loss of property. According to Locke, a government arises to protect life and property. Governments are born of inequality and formed to administer equality.
Hobbes goes into a lot of detail concerning mans interactions with one another including ways in which man can seek to live “together in Peace, and Unity” (page 69). However, Hobbes focuses on the interactions of man seeking the same goal. In any system of limited resources, “Competition of Riches, Honour, Command, or other power enclineth to Contention, Enmity, and War: Because the way of one Competitor, to attaining of his desire, is to kill, subdue, supplant, or repell the other” (page 70).
Hobbes also deals with the qualities which man possess, and how they affect a mans basic nature. Man who is charismatic leads others to confide in him. Charisma combined with military ability causes men to follow others as leaders. Those who think of themselves as leaders, the “Men that have a strong opinion of their own wisdome in matter of government, are disposed to Ambition” (page 72).
According to Hobbes “Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable” (page 86-87). Furthermore man tend to see himself as wisest in matters, whether or not others may do things better, and that there is no great sign of equal distribution, “than that every man is contended with his share” (page 87).
Hobbes and Locke consider the formation of government from mans own nature, whether or not government is formed because man is a social animal or if government is formed to preserve society. According to Locke, man must not “think that all government in the world is the product only of force and violence, and that men live together by no other rules but that of beasts” (page 1). “To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature” (page 3).
Unlike Hobbes, whose laws of nature have to deal with mans preserving of his own life, Locke chooses to apply the term to the idea of reason, by saying that if man reasons about the fundamental concerns that government arises to protect life and property, man can come to certain natural conclusions about how they should be protected.
One of Lockes central themes is the distribution of property. In a state of natural abundance “all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common” (page 18). In this situation the only thing man naturally owns is “his own person. This no body has any right to but himself” (page 18). Therefore, man is in a way equal, however it is an imperfect equality. “Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property” (page 18). Therefore, everything belongs to mankind in general, until a man decides to take it upon himself to acquire something from its pure state in nature, and since he has to work to achieve this, the fruits of the labor are his.
Locke also believes that if somebody takes more than he can use, and it spoils, or if somebody takes more land than he can cultivate, or if somebody allows crops to whither without being picked, they are committing crimes against humanity. However if somebody takes an acre of land, and by planting on it and harvesting the crop produces the same amount of food that can naturally be found in ten acres, they are in fact giving to mankind. As long as there is plenty of land left to take “he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all” (page 21).
It is human nature to quarrel, however according to Hobbes “in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarrel. First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory” (page 88). Men fight for their own gain, to protect themselves, and to acquire a reputation as warriors. Hobbes points out the basic nature of mans interactions with each other, however Hobbes is not saying that man is fundamentally evil, but rather, “The desires, and other Passions of man, are in themselves no Sin” (page 89). They are merely natural parts of man, and should be understood as such.
Locke also focuses on the nature of crime and justice. Mankind “may not unless it be to do justice to an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb or goods of another” (page 5). Locke also holds that “if any one in the state of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, every one may do so” (page 5). Furthermore, when one man does injury against another, “he who hath received any damage, has besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation from him that has done it. And any other person who finds it just, may also join with him that is injured, and assist him in recovering from the offender, so much as may make satisfaction for the harm he has suffered” (page 6).
According to Hobbes, in a situation without government to moderate them, “The notions of right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place” (page 90). Man is by nature inclined to take as much as he can for his own preservation at the cost of other men. Therefore, man must create government, and therefore, peace, because of the fear of death and loss of property. Hobbes compares the laws of nature versus human law by defining the laws of nature as those things that are fundamentally part of us and dictate our behavior and actions when there is no human law to do so. Human laws are imposed by men who recognize their own natures and freely give up some of their rights so that others will do the same. Any stable society of civilized men must come to this point, or fall into destruction from within.
As for Lockes state of “perfect equality”, “all men are naturally in that state, and remain so, till by their own consents they make themselves members of some political society” (page 10). When that happens, men give up some of their free rights for others of protection and guarantees of safety and property, and thus a government is born.
In conclusion, although a government should protect life and prevent loss of property, these protections are not guaranteed. Competition and crime is still a problem even though a government exists. Even today, throughout the world, inequalities still exist. Although governments exist there is still no guarantee of equality or that every life and all property will be protected.